When it comes to qualities we’d like to possess, confidence tops everyone’s list in pretty much any situation. Confidence is more than just healthy self-esteem, it involves feeling esteemed, special, powerful, and sure of our worth. We need to feel that we matter. And while a big part of feeling confident in your clothes is whether you feel authentic in them, there are certainly some aesthetic qualities that can inspire confidence through their associations and the qualities they trigger. Whether for work, a date, or just your morning coffee run, key aesthetic elements for dressing confidently include bold silhouettes, red’s powerful effects, gold for its associations with winning, as well as a few other special features. Let’s explore them in further detail.
Volume & Silhouette
Silhouette, the overall shape that the length and breadth of your outfit creates, creates instant and immediate visual impact. Larger volume and bolder silhouettes that move along with you as you walk provide a firm sense of presence, making you feel special and larger than life. In an A-line shape, I always somehow feel much more dignified than in a sheath or pencil silhouette. The former crowns the body, while the latter leaves me feeling more vulnerable and less fortified. History has many examples to illustrate the theory: the clothes of monarchy, clergymen, and aristocrats always had more layers than those of average people. Traditionally, special occasions also call for bigger silhouettes, such as bridal gowns at weddings. It’s also no wonder the socialites of the 50s and 60s jet set loved couturier Balenciaga’s majestic balloon-like silhouettes.
But it’s not just about the garment alone. Think of a shadow: your hair, body, shoes, and accessories all contribute to the final effect. Once again, try to employ contrast. Big hair would probably feel like overkill when wearing a voluminous dress. A sleek bun would achieve a confident sense of balance and fluidity, both psychologically and visually. As the late legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland once said, “the eye has to travel”.
TOP VOLUME PICK: ROSIE ASSOULIN The Flying Buttresses hemp peplum top £795
The Color Red
Contrary to what The Devil Wears Prada would have you believe, the devil normally eschews the Italian label for head-to-toe crimson. Hypnotic red has serious power-inducing properties, and several studies have demonstrated that it’s the optimal color to wear in order to feel confident, powerful, and attractive. A 2017 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology proved that red makes not only changes how you look to others, but red actually influences your own perceived attractiveness. And if you feel like you look great, you emit positive energy, which is ultimately what matters most. Red isn’t for everyone because it might feel too much for certain personalities, so try it in small doses to assess how you feel in it. Red nails, a lipstick, a crossbody bag, or red shoes are an easy way to trigger a jolt of confidence. If you find red too aggressive for you, combining one of these red accents with an all-white outfit would have a more tempered, sophisticated result, than say when if you paired red with another power-shade, such as black.
TOP RED PICK: J.CREW - Marseille belted linen jumpsuit £130
Gold: All That Glitters
From Olympic medals to the Oscar awards, gold has clear associations with winning. It’s the color of success, achievement, and triumph. Gold pieces, whether in the form of clothes, shoes, or jewelry, make us feel powerful, heroic, and in control. Because gold is also associated with abundance, luxury, value, quality, and sophistication, gold can also affect our psychological sense of self-worth. If your baseline style is quieter, or you’re a cooler complexion and just don’t suit it, even looking at gold from time to time (say on your iPhone case) can help you to feel golden - as if you are destined for great things.
TOP GOLD PICK: FIGUE Verushka cropped sequined tulle pants £535
Craftsmanship & Special Details
Elevated detailing on your clothes can also boost self-esteem and regard. Embellishment in the form of ornate details such as beadwork, embroidery or stone-encrusted patchwork is reminiscent of actual armor. These couture-quality touches are striking to look at, but also bring a tough element to an outfit. Other special craftsmanship-led details such as pleats, ruffles, and flounced elements can also inspire confidence, because it’s empowering to know, even subconsciously, that you are wearing something extraordinary, which took painstaking care to make. Elevated clothes, elevated thoughts. While clothes that take longer, and require artisanal skills, to make are usually more expensive than ones that don’t, adding beautiful details to your wardrobe needn’t be expensive. Beautiful and reasonably priced pieces of ornate costume jewelry are readily available and can make a big impact on an otherwise simple look. You can also find more non-branded artisanal pieces such as beaded accessories at markets and vintage shops, and especially while travelling.
TOP CRAFTSMANSHIP PICK: KAYU Lolita mini fringed woven straw tote £100
All images: Lanvin Resort 2014 via vogue.com